Category: Forgiveness


What does Matthew 6:14-15 mean?

Matthew 6 does not teach that our eternal destiny is based on our forgiving other people; however, it does teach that our relationship with God will be damaged if we refuse to pardon those who have offended us. The Bible is clear that God pardons sin by His grace based on Christ’s work on the cross alone, not on man’s actions. Our right standing before Him is established on one thing only—the finished work of Christ (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). The penalty for the sin that is rightly ours is paid by Christ, and we obtain it by grace through faith, not by any righteous deeds of our own (Ephesians 2:8-9). No one will be able to stand before God demanding that his sins be forgotten simply because he has forgiven others. Only when we are born again and given a new life through God’s Spirit by faith in Jesus Christ are our sins forgiven. Therefore, Jesus is not referring to God’s initial act of forgiveness (reconciliation) that we experienced when we first believed the Gospel.

What He is referring to is the day-to-day cleansing we obtain when we confess our sins in order to restore fellowship with our heavenly Father—the fellowship which is interrupted by the daily tarnishing of sin that affects us all. This is not the wholesale cleansing from sin that comes with salvation by grace through faith, but is more like the foot-washing Jesus describes in John 13:10. The “whole body is clean,” He told the disciples, but their feet were dirty from their walking in the world. Forgiveness in this sense is what God threatens to withhold from Christians who refuse to forgive others.

In Matthew 6 Jesus is teaching disciples how to pray and in doing so outlines how we are restored into intimacy with God whenever we have displeased Him. In fact, Jesus instructs us to build into our prayers a request for God to forgive us in the same way that we have forgiven others who have harmed us (Matthew 6:12). If there are those we have not forgiven when we ourselves pray for forgiveness, then practically speaking we are asking God not to restore a right relationship with us after we sin. To emphasize the importance of restoring broken relationships with our brothers and sisters, Jesus states that asking for God’s forgiveness for one’s own sins, all the while withholding forgiveness from someone else, is not only bizarre but hypocritical. We cannot possibly walk with God in true fellowship if we refuse to forgive others.

To be sure, an unforgiving spirit is a serious sin and should be confessed to God. If we have unforgiveness in our hearts against someone else, then we are acting in a way that is not pleasing to God, making our prayers and a proper living relationship with Him difficult. God will not hear our prayers unless we also show ourselves ready to grant forgiveness. If we are harder than iron in this regard, Christ’s exhortation ought to soften us.

A second biblically plausible interpretation of Matthew 6:14-15 is that it is saying anyone who refuses to forgive others is demonstrating that he has not truly received Christ’s forgiveness himself. Any sin committed against us, no matter how terrible, is trivial in comparison to our sins against God. If God has forgiven us of so much, how could we refuse to forgive others of so “little”? Matthew 6:14-15, according to this view, proclaims that anyone who harbors un-forgiveness against others has not truly experienced God’s forgiveness. Both interpretations strongly deny that salvation is dependent on our forgiving others. Whether Matthew 6:14-15 is speaking of “relational forgiveness,” or whether it is a declaration that un-forgiveness is the mark of an unbeliever, the core truth is the same. We should forgive others because God, through Christ, has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). It is inconceivable that someone who has truly experienced God’s forgiveness could refuse to grant forgiveness to others.

Everyone has been wronged, offended, and sinned against at some point. How are Christians to respond when such offenses occur? According to the Bible, we are to forgive others. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Similarly, Colossians 3:13 proclaims, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” The key in both Scriptures is that we are to forgive others as God has forgiven us. Why do we forgive? Because we have been forgiven!

Forgiveness would be simple if we only had to grant it to those who come asking for it in sorrow and repentance. The Bible tells us that we are to forgive, without condition, those who sin against us. Refusing to truly forgive a person demonstrates resentment, bitterness, and anger, none of which are the traits of a true Christian. In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to forgive us our sins, just as we forgive those who sin against us (Matthew 6:12). Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” In light of other Scriptures that speak of God’s forgiveness, Matthew 6:14-15 is best understood to be saying that people who refuse to forgive others have not truly experienced God’s forgiveness themselves.

Whenever we disobey one of God’s commands, we sin against Him. Whenever we wrong another person, we not only sin against that person, but also against God. When we consider the extent to which God forgives all our transgressions, we realize that we do not have the right to withhold this grace from others. We have sinned against God infinitely more than any person can sin against us. If God forgives us of so much, how can we refuse to forgive others of so little? Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18:23-35 is a powerful illustration of this truth. God promises that when we come to Him asking for forgiveness, He freely grants it (1 John 1:9). The forgiveness we extend should know no limits, in the same way that God’s forgiveness is limitless (Luke 17:3-4).

1 John 3:20

Have you ever heard someone say, “I know God has forgiven me, but I’ll never be able to forgive myself”? While such self-condemnation can spring from several sources, it is, in any case, an enemy the Lord has already defeated. Romans 8:1 tells us, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This encouraging statement covers all condemnation, including self-recrimination. How, then, should we deal with those condemning voices?

First of all, we need to distinguish between remorse and guilt. We are right to feel sorrow and remorse for past deeds, but to carry guilt for them is not necessary. The Bible assures us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us (1 John 1:9). Any lingering feelings of guilt after this are enemies trying to rob us of our freedom in Christ.

Sometimes these feelings of guilt stem from the mistaken notion that we still must pay for our sins, so we unconsciously embrace perpetual remorse as a way to make restitution for past wrongs. Such a practice suggests the faulty idea that Jesus’ precious blood wasn’t sufficient to cover all of the sins from our past, present, and future. Once we finally realize that He has stamped “paid in full” on our account, then we must never dare to side with those who would have us believe otherwise.

Since our heavenly Father has given us His Word, we can reject all accusing voices and rest on His promise: “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 John 3:20 NKJV).

“What happens if I sin, and then I die before I have an opportunity to confess that sin to God?” Another common question is “what happens if I commit a sin, but then forget about it and never remember to confess it to God?” Both of these questions rest on a faulty assumption. Salvation is not a matter of believers trying to confess and repent from every sin they commit before they die. Salvation is not based on whether a Christian has confessed and repented of every sin. Yes, we should confess our sins to God as soon as we are aware that we have sinned. However, we do not always need to be asking God for forgiveness. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, all of our sins are forgiven. That includes past, present, and future, big or small. Believers do not have to keep asking for forgiveness or repenting in order to have their sins forgiven. Jesus died to pay the penalty for all of our sins, and when they are forgiven, they are all forgiven (Colossians 1:14; Acts 10:43).

What we are to do is confess our sins: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). What this verse tells us to do is “confess” our sins to God. The word “confess” means “to agree with.” When we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with God that we were wrong, that we have sinned. God forgives us, through confession, on an ongoing basis because of the fact that He is “faithful and just.” How is God “faithful and just”? He is faithful by forgiving sins, which He has promised to do for all those who receive Christ as Savior. He is just by applying Christ’s payment for our sins, recognizing that the sins have indeed been atoned for.

At the same time, 1 John 1:9 does indicate that somehow forgiveness is dependent on our confessing our sins to God. How does this work if all of our sins are forgiven the moment we receive Christ as Savior? It seems that what the apostle John is describing here is “relational” forgiveness. All of our sins are forgiven “positionally” the moment we receive Christ as Savior. This positional forgiveness guarantees our salvation and promise of an eternal home in heaven. When we stand before God after death, God will not deny us entrance into heaven because of our sins. That is positional forgiveness. The concept of relational forgiveness is based on the fact that when we sin, we offend God and grieve His Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). While God has ultimately forgiven us of the sins we commit, they still result in a blocking or hindrance in our relationship with God. A young boy who sins against his father is not cast out of the family. A godly father will forgive his children unconditionally. At the same time, a good relationship between father and son cannot be achieved until the relationship is restored. This can only occur when a child confesses his mistakes to his father and apologizes. That is why we confess our sins to God—not to maintain our salvation, but to bring ourselves back into close fellowship with the God who loves us and has already forgiven us.

Acts 13:38 declares,  “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness  of sins is proclaimed to you.”

What is forgiveness and why do I  need it?

The word “forgive” means to wipe the slate clean, to  pardon, to cancel a debt. When we wrong someone, we seek their forgiveness in  order for the relationship to be restored. Forgiveness is not granted because a  person deserves to be forgiven. No one deserves to be forgiven. Forgiveness is  an act of love, mercy, and grace. Forgiveness is a decision to not hold  something against another person, despite what they have done to you.

The Bible tells us that we are all in need of forgiveness from God. We have all  committed sin. Ecclesiastes 7:20 proclaims, “There is not a righteous  man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” First John 1:8 says, “If  we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”  All sin is ultimately an act of rebellion against God (Psalm 51:4). As a result, we desperately need God’s  forgiveness. If our sins are not forgiven, we will spend eternity suffering the  consequences of our sins (Matthew  25:46; John  3:36).

Forgiveness – How do I get it?

Thankfully, God is loving and merciful – eager to forgive us of our sins! 2 Peter 3:9 tells us, “…He  is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to  repentance.” God desires to forgive us, so He provided for our  forgiveness.

The only just penalty for our sins is death. The first half  of Romans 6:23 declares, “For the wages of sin is death…” Eternal death is what we have earned  for our sins. God, in His perfect plan, became a human being – Jesus Christ (John 1:1,14). Jesus died on the cross, taking the penalty that we  deserve – death. Second Corinthians 5:21 teaches us, “God made Him who had  no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of  God.” Jesus died on the cross, taking the punishment that we deserve! As God,  Jesus’ death provided forgiveness for the sins of the entire world. 1 John 2:2 proclaims, “He is  the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins  of the whole world.” Jesus rose from the dead, proclaiming His victory over sin  and death (1  Corinthians 15:1-28). Praise God, through the death and resurrection of  Jesus Christ, the second half of Romans 6:23 is true, “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our  Lord.”

Do you want to have your sins forgiven? Do you have a nagging  feeling of guilt that you can’t seem to get to go away? Forgiveness of your sins  is available if you will place your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In  Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance  with the riches of God’s grace.” Jesus paid our debt for us, so we could be  forgiven. All you have to do is ask God to forgive you through Jesus, believing  that Jesus died to pay for your forgiveness – and He will forgive you! John 3:16-17 contains this  wonderful message, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only  Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For  God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the  world through Him.”

Forgiveness – is it really that  easy?

Yes it is that easy! You can’t earn forgiveness from God.  You can’t pay for your forgiveness from God. You can only receive it, by faith,  through the grace and mercy of God. If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your  Savior and receive forgiveness from God, here is a prayer you can pray. Saying  this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. It is only trusting in Jesus  Christ that can provide forgiveness of sins. This prayer is simply a way to  express to God your faith in Him and thank Him for providing for your  forgiveness. “God, I know that I have sinned against You and am deserving of  punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through  faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank  You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness! Amen!”